New ‘scuba rice’ could protect 49 million acres of rice fields from flooding

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According to some estimates, half the world depends on rice as its staple food. But as the climate changes, rice cultivation is increasingly under threat by record-breaking temperatures, drought and flooding. That’s why, as Michael Taylor at Reuters reports, a group called the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has collected and conserved 136,000 varieties of rice and recently received a commitment of $1.4 million in annual funding to maintain the collection.

…. While gene editing and synthetic biology get a lot of attention for their potential to develop more nutritious and resilient crops, the IRRI says the traits needed to survive a changing climate are already present in the seed bank. “It is really important to the future of food security,” Matthew Morell, IRRI’s director general tells Reuters. “Within those rice varieties are genetics that will allow us to preserve the ability to produce rice in the face of climate change.”

Related article:  How will gene editing impact agriculture? Experts offer 10 predictions

One new variety, dubbed “scuba rice,” has food scientists particularly excited. Currently, about 49 million acres of rice fields in Asia are susceptible to flooding. If rice is flooded at the wrong time of year, however, it will not survive more than a few days. The new variety can withstand floodwaters for two weeks and is already being grown by 5 million farmers in Asia. A variety suited for Africa is currently under development.

Read full, original article: 136,000 Varieties of Rice Are Now Protected in Perpetuity

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